While the 2012-13 NHL season still resembles something of a pipe dream, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has to be nervous about the proposition of starting the next season with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens between the pipes.
Reimer’s injury struggles are well documented, and while Reimer has given the Maple Leafs every indication that he will be ready to go if and when the puck is dropped, there is still an underlining concern that his injuries may continue to hinder his career.
Scrivens posted some excellent numbers at the AHL level last season, leading the Toronto Marlies to a Calder Cup final and sending a message to the big club that he was ready to contend for the number one job with the Maple Leafs.
Through 39 games with the Marlies, Scrivens posted a 22-15-1 record to go along with a tidy 2.04 goals against average and an impressive 0.926 save percentage.
Scrivens followed his regular season performance up with an excellent playoff performance, posting a 11-6 record, 1.92 GAA and 0.935 SV%.
Heading into the 2012-13 season Scrivens was supposed to be Burke’s plan “B” should Reimer succumb to injuries or falter between the pipes as he did in 2011-12.
While it is still very early in the AHL schedule, Scrivens has struggled to find his game, posting a 2-2 record, 2.73 GAA and a paltry 0.896 SV%.
On the surface, Scrivens’ numbers can be excused as simply a bad run, but what if his numbers persist, what will Burke’s plan “B” be then?
While Scrivens was impressive with the Marlies last season he was nothing short of average with the Maple Leafs last season. Through 12 games with the big club Scrivens posted a 4-5-2 record, 3.13 GAA and a 0.903 SV%.
Clearly, while Scrivens does bring an impressive resume to the table, he has plenty of room to grow before anyone is willing to call him a legitimate NHL goaltender. Getting it “done” for one season with the Marlies is something to build on, but it should not negate the fact that Burke should be looking at other options when it comes to his netminding.
Numerous reports had Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo heading to the Maple Leafs if and when a new CBA was negotiated. Luongo’s presence would almost certainly make the blue and white a playoff contender and put to rest any concerns Burke may have regarding his goaltending.
Those reports were recently shot down and Luongo has not come out and said he was coming to Toronto, still there is hope that Burke could get a deal done.
Standing in the way of acquiring Luongo is the fact the Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is said to be asking for a kings ransom in return for Luongo and the fact that Luongo has ten years at a cap hit of $5,333,333 per season remaining on his contract.
While Scrivens’ struggles are not the end of the world they may be enough for Burke to re-evaluate his position of starting the season with Reimer and Scrivens between the pipes, which is not a bad thing.
Burke’s third option between the pipes may very well be Jussi Rynnas. Rynnas, who served as Scrivens’ backup for most of the 2011-12 season with the Marlies, posted an 11-9-1 record through 22 games with a 2.55 GAA and a 0.910 SV%.
This season, through two games with the Marlies, Rynnas has one win and one shootout loss, allowing just three goals and earning one shutout. Rynnas owns a sparkling 1.44 GAA and an excellent 0.952 save percentage— but it is still very early.
In the end, Scrivens should revert to last years numbers, but Burke may very well be on pins and needles until such time as Scrivens returns to form.
As a team, the Marlies own a 3-2-1-1 record. Forward Keith Aucoin has been impressive with six assists on the season, while Jake Gardiner has been the Marlies best defenseman with three goals and two assists.
Other standouts have been Greg McKegg, who is fitting in nicely down the middle, while Carter Ashton is getting props for his inspired play along the boards and willingness to hit everything that moves and get to the tough areas of the ice.
Leo Komarov (who wears Sidney Crosby’s number 87) has also been impressive, shutting down opposing forwards with his gritty play and posting three points and a plus +3 rating thus far.
Nazem Kadri continues to grow his game, but thus far has been short of spectacular with three assists on the season.
Like many teams, success starts between the pipes. For Burke’s sake, let’s hope Scrivens finds his game.